Octavo Dia

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ready, Aim, Binoculars

Something more stupid that unusual out of Annie's Mailbox, "We don't think pistols at forty paces will be necessary." Forty paces is approximately 240 feet. If they can hit someone at 240 feet with a pistol, they're downright phenomenal marksmen.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Referendum

I read an interesting idea today. Have a referendum on the U.S. presense in Iraq. If we win, we have a mandate to stay. If we lose, we can pull out with no lose of face. Seems workable to me.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Book Review

Excerpt from the upcoming book Riots for Dummies:

"With the flap over boorish behavior by UW Band members, I wonder if we shouldn't extend sanctions to the boorish behavior exhibited by the student sections during football games. Perhaps we should let them know that one more outburst of profane chants will result in 'virtual extinction' of the student section (escort the whole lot them out of the stadium on the spot)."

The author of this letter to the editor has apparently zero knowledge of how groups of rowdy humans behave when authority figures try to force them to do something.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Junk DNA

Just a random thought, with no background research at all. The "junk" DNA contains many bits and pieces of inactive, regular DNA. Could this be backup? If one part of the DNA strand is damaged, could it retrieve an appropriate copy from the junk to heal itself?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

America. Reaching New Heights of Patheticness

I just read about the Soloflex. Can we not even move our few remaining muscles under their own power?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Mammoths

Yoel Natan has an article rejected by Creation magazine on his website, along with Creation's responses to it. Besides the objections they raise, there are a few more problems:

1. What is the specific density of a mammoth? They may sink on all fours, as he said, but unless the upper body is less dense than water, once the legs hit bottom, the mammoth, which is top heavy, will procede to tip over on its side, and not be buried standing up.

2. Is there any evidence of struggle in the sediments covering the mammoths? If they had died of asphyxiation, aka, drowning, we would expect them to have churned up a considerable amount of dirt. They are, after all, the size of elephants.

3. Elephants can swim. We can hypothesize that mammoths could as well. They would not simply drift to the bottom, but swim for their lives. And, since they're the size of elephants, it would take an awful lot of water to (a) flood them out, (b) be deep enough for their variable bouyancy to orient them upright in their drift to the bottom, (c) be deep enough that they couldn't pop a trunk above the surface for a snort, and (d) be turbulent enough for them to be unable to swim.

4. Mammoths are huge. Water is full of scavengers, particularly at the bottom. There needs to be some mechanism to cover a mammoth quickly, so that the scavengers wouldn't rip it apart. Even if the water was cold enough that there were few scavengers, the mammoth would still need a thick enough layer deposited that it wouldn't be torn away by the next spring flood, thereby exposing the year-old carcass to scavengers.

That mammoths were well preserved even though it was warm enough for grass and flowers to grow is less of a wonder when one considers how the Ice Man was found with grass tucked into his shoes for insulation.

5. This is just silly. The Ice Man was found on a mountain. According to Collin's Military Geography, 1000 feet of altitude is the equivalent of traveling 300-400 miles towards the poles. Ice Man was found about 7000 feet above sea level. Assuming that, that was the height at which he was killed, and not brought down further by glaciers, the weather at that level was the equivalent of 2100 to 2800 miles further north--in short a dramatic climate change. He could have easily lined his shoes with grass at a lower altitude, and then been killed at a grass-free higher altitude.

The reason may be that such specimens were accumulating for decades in frigid river and lake sediments. Then Siberia plunged into the deep freeze that created permafrost.

6. Water is a unique substance in that it becomes more dense as it cools to 4 degrees celcius, and then less dense as it continues freezing. Thus a lake will cool evenly until the whole body of water is approximately 4 degrees celcius, and then form an ice sheet on top. Elephants require large quantities of liquid water, year round. Therefore, the lakes, at the very least, would have had to form an ice sheet thin enough for mammoths to easily break it. With such a thin layer, the frigid lakes would have been approximately four degrees celcius at their bottoms. What is four degrees celcius? It's the temperature you have on your fridge. Do things mold and rot in your fridge? Are animals used to such an environment able to survive in such waters, as they do today? The carcasses would mold, rot, and be eaten at the bottom of such frigid lakes.

In short, there's a good reason why Creation rejected the article. It doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Frazz




A couple of ironic things about this comic. First, the law of abiogensis is at least as well established as the law of gravity--it also has no known violations. Second, logical positivists would argue that the statement "humans are made of blood, phlegm, and two kinds of bile" is actually a more scientific statement. It's wrong, but it's observable, testable and repeatable, and therefore scientific.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Helping People is Hard

An article about child labor laws. In an attempt to prevent people from exploiting children, India passed child labor laws, which has succeeded in forcing impoverished children from working in the open economy into the underground economy, in which they will be exploited even more.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pre-human history

What would happen if, instead of teaching evolution in science class, we taught it in history class--teaching only the non-controversial mechanics of evolution (like adaptation, natural selection, variation etc.) in science class. It doesn't seem to me like it would be as controversial. I'm not sure why it wouldn't, having a few chapters on pre-human history, but it just doesn't. Perhaps it is because people are used to debating about history.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Terrorism

How's this for a working definition of terrorism: terrorism is indirect violent coercion. The goal of a terrorist is not to influence the behavior of the target directly, but to influence others to influence the behavior of the target through violence on the direct object.

Therefore, the dropping of the a-bombs on Japan could be counted as terrorism, because they were intended to make the Japanese people (the direct object) influence the government to stop the war (the indirect object).

Sept. 11 was a terrorist attack, because its goal was to cause the American people (the direct object) to cause the American government (the indirect object) to withdraw from Muslim lands.

The Cole attack was not terrorism, because its object, the American government, was the same as its target.

The Oklahoma city bombing was not a terrorist attack, because its object, the American government, was the same as its target.

It seems to me that this is the best definition of terrorism that excludes political labeling, but it makes the rough-and-ready "I'll know it when I see it" definition of terrorism useless. Terror can happen without terrorism.

Environment

Why one should be very careful when changing the environment.